Beat Burnout: 5 Secrets to Keep WFH Agents Engaged during a Pandemic Lockdown

By Catherine DeStasio | May 1, 2020
Keep Agents Engaged during a Pandemic

What separates an engaged and productive employee from a disengaged and burned out one? Often, it may be as simple as feeling appreciated.

According to research, 82% of employed Americans do not think they receive adequate recognition at work, and that hurts productivity, morale and profitability—regardless of what else is happening in the world.

The recognition deficit and its negative impact are especially acute right now when stress is elevated for contact center agents and the customers they’re trying to help. Working from home dealing with sky-high call volume from the pandemic lockdown means one day melts into the next, and burnout comes quickly and easily. Recognition is one antidote.

When engaged, agents feel a stronger connection to a team. They perform at high levels, form better relationships and deliver optimal customer experiences. Here are five secrets to keeping your work-from-home (WFH) agents engaged—not burned out—in a global crisis.

1. Communicate Appreciation

While a sense of accomplishment and public recognition can help prevent burnout, some 65% of North Americans report they have not received recognition for work well done in the last 12 months. Contact centers that don’t regularly recognize agents for good work are likely to experience low morale, burnout and high attrition. Inevitably, that delivers a blow to customer experience.

A performance management solution like CxEngage Scoreboard can help. Scoreboard tracks real-time performance and displays results on wallboards that are easily accessible, even remotely. Games integrate with Scoreboard too, providing public recognition as agents achieve new levels and measure their real-time performance against peers.

2. Use (the Right) Data

Contact center leaders accustomed to managing on-site teams need tools to support them as they lead in a remote environment. Focusing on key performance indicators can help create a sense of normalcy and consistency, especially as teams work in a world filled with distraction.

Serenova’s CxEngage contact center solution aggregates data, giving supervisors the complete picture of customer interactions. By eliminating silos of information, contact center leaders can make informed decisions about which agent behaviors lead to positive customer experiences, and from there, set KPIs they can use to optimize agent engagement and performance.

3. Provide Continuous, Individual Feedback

Remote work environments can make performance monitoring, coaching and feedback challenging because the natural, ongoing interactions between supervisors and agents are missing. WFH agents can lose the personal connection with their managers that they had in the contact center. Those connections kept them motivated and promoted a sense of belonging and accountability to a team.

While supervisors should devote time to personally connect with WFH agents, the time pressures caused by increased call volume due to the pandemic leaves little time. Quality management tools can provide much-needed efficiency.

CxEngage Quality Management combined with call center recording software records agent interactions and measures them against a defined set of criteria. Supervisors then review scores and share feedback with agents. It enables coaching sessions that are focused and individualized, prompting real conversations about an agent’s performance.

The result: Performance is addressed and connections are maintained.

4. Avoid Micromanaging

The rapid transition to remote work affects supervisors as much as agents. Concern about loss of control, missed goals and lost productivity—real or perceived— can drive them to cope by micromanaging. This could mean putting extra pressure on their agents by focusing on issues they didn’t notice before. And in a period of crisis, when anxiety and doubt are already elevated, it can be counterproductive.

Supervisors need to adapt to this period of excessive change and unnerving uncertainty by striking a balance between keeping agents productive and not overwhelming or demotivating them. Relying on well-chosen KPIs, real-time metrics and consistent coaching suggestions can help maintain the necessary balance. Managers can also implement an on-premise contact center solution to the cloud with a rapid recovery plan

A generous helping of empathy can also go far right now.

5. Keep It Real

Even the most well-intended strategy will be ineffective if it fails to take into consideration the real toll social distancing is taking on agents, whether they already worked from home or had to make a quick transition. People of every personality type are feeling the negative effects of forced isolation on their mental health.

Supervisors must be aware that agents, even those who didn’t previously need it, may require help, encouragement and empathy. There is no proven playbook with all the needed answers, but agents don’t expect supervisors to have all the answers.

What will serve teams best is for contact center leaders to be transparent, provide support and listen, while communicating organizational goals. That level of authenticity generates trust, loyalty and engagement. And it translates to positive customer experience.

While we are now operating in a world of firsts, there are best practices for managing that withstand even a global pandemic. The e-book, 7 Habits of Highly Effective Contact Center Leaders, focuses on powerful and perennial lessons in leadership. It includes a real-life perspective from Jen Jackson, Serenova’s Vice President of Customer Success, who has spent her career leading contact centers. Jen is well known for motivating agents and driving business success.

For more about the tools that can help your contact center thrive in crisis, contact us for a demo.


Catherine DeStasio is Sr. Content Manager at Serenova.